Posted 15 May 2015 by Andrew Gardner
Last weekend I rode past a dinosaur. At least, afterwards we debated whether it was actually a camel, but anyway it was a rather beautiful wooden sculpture to which I'd happily give garden space, and I still have no idea why it was sitting on a Sussex bridlepath. Just taking the sun, I guess. One of my horse's unique selling points when I bought her was that she would go past tigers, having lived near a safari park - but dinosaurs, and indeed camels, were a new one on us. I'm not sure what she'd make of the llamas on the South Downs: horses find them a bit scary, something to do with their long necks and the fact that they spit when angry or frightened, probably; but for us humans llamas are a delightful sight and local llama trekking makes a fun day out.
Here in Sussex are skies are filled with beautiful birds, and when we did a hawk walk locally we were told that most of the birds we flew that day - including kestrels, owls and various types of hawk - could be seen around Sussex at various points in the year. We certainly have buzzards nesting locally and some of the loftier rooftops of Brighton and Chichester have some fairly unexpected residents.
One bird that's been nominated for a role as a national emblem is the red kite, a wonderful raptor (now you see my dinosaur train of thought) that's been successfully reintroduced to many areas of the country. However, I was intrigued to read recently that this predator's increasing numbers, along with buzzards, are having a detrimental effect on some of our smaller native birds, such as the lovely skylark, the song thrush and possibly even the cuckoo. At which point I realised that I hadn't yet heard a cuckoo this year, which is very unusual.
Here in Sussex we're proud of our biodiversity, so if you love bird-spotting do bring your binoculars. A walk on the South Downs will reveal larks a-plenty and the dawn chorus around our cosy country cottages is wonderful to hear - click here to view our rural cottage selection. Come evening, you might even catch a nightingale singing. Now that takes some beating.